A Snowy Landscape
Winter Storm Damon dumped about a foot and a half of snow on us last week and Wren and I were ready for it. The first chance we had, we headed to the Jackrabbit Trail along McKenzie Pond Road in Saranac Lake. The day was overcast and not terribly cold and the popular trail was already fairly well skied in. We skied through a landscape of snow-laden spruce bent low with the weight, the gray trunks of snow-plastered maples and beeches, and a world ensconced in the silence of winter. We only came across one small flock of Black-capped Chickadees with a Red-breasted Nuthatch. We cruised up and down the initial rises and falls of the first mile of the trail and then we reached the fairly long downhill that reaches the outlet to McKenzie Pond.
Wren had been trotting behind me and I paused to get her in the lead. I always prefer her ahead of me on downhills so she doesn’t accidently tread on my ski tails as she races along. She paused to eat some snow in an effort to quench her thirst and then started off ahead of me – always enjoying the race of a downhill run. But just as quickly she veered off – evidently her first snow drink had not been sufficient. I was moving quickly at this point and whizzed past her. She immediately turned and was on my heels.
The Big Fall
What happened next may be a matter of conjecture and debate for years to come. I was skiing on a pair of skinny skis designed to be used in set track at a ski center – not backcountry skis which would be much better suited to deal with soft snow. As I reached the narrow bridge over the stream with Wren excitedly on my heels, my right ski slipped off the kicked in track and into the deep snow on the shoulder and I couldn’t pull it back out. With my body’s momentum going forward so quickly and my right leg suddenly creating a tremendous amount of drag, I was instantly spun and landed in a twisted and white heap in the form of a header on the far side of the bridge. My face looked like it did when my older brothers rubbed it in the snow when I was a kid.
I seldom fall, and this was one of the worst falls I’ve had in a very long time. And while I never did feel Wren catch my ski tail, my skiing ego would like to think that I was tripped. Not one to give away her hand on such things, Wren stood next to me wagging excitedly as she greeted me in the snow. I was down at her level, after all. The truth is, the skiing error was entirely my own – I got caught in soft snow and should have been on wider skis with more sidecut. My bruised ego aside, I was more immediately aware that my left shoulder was quite sore. It had taken the brunt of the force and it was twisted when we hit the ground.
I stood and dusted off, stretching my shoulder gingerly. I had really tweaked it. It probably didn’t help that it was already so tired from all the shoveling I had done after our big snow. It would have likely been a wise move to turn around and get ice on the shoulder right away, but I decided to continue, not wanting to cut our time short. Falling is part of skiing, after all, and sometimes you just have to keep going anyway.
Enjoying the Rest of the Ski Anyway
We continued along the flat mile which approaches McKenzie Pond and my shoulder began to loosen up a bit as we went. It will be tender for a few weeks at a minimum. We reached McKenzie Pond and I stopped for a few photos of the low clouds and misty snow around the peak of Mount Baker. We turned and paused at the trail junction. I had planned on climbing the long hill toward Lake Placid, but didn’t want to aggravate my shoulder further. So we compromised my conflicting goals and climbed it a short distance rather than work my shoulder too much or risk another spill in the soft snow. Judging by the ski tracks we were the only ones to climb the hill this far anyway. They all seemed to be coming downhill from Placid.
We turned and then began to retrace our tracks the couple miles to the car. It was thankfully an easy and uneventful trip back with a smooth crossing of the little bridge this time. After the bridge we raced again on one of my favorite downhills of the trail – this time with Wren in front of me – and we later spooked a Ruffed Grouse from the thickets of a tiny creek where I often find them. Tired, we headed home for some warm food and a cold bag of ice to help us get ready for another day.